- Wilmot Cattle Company will be paid around $500,000 for soil carbon credits
- Regenerative grazing increases soil organic matter
- Boosted productivity and profitability as well as delivering resilience in drought years
- Regenerative grazing can turn livestock production from being one of the major contributors to climate change into one of the largest solutions to climate change
Author / ANDRE LEU
IN an Australian first, Wilmot Cattle Company will be paid around half a million dollars for soil carbon credits. They are being paid for sequestering 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into their soil by using regenerative grazing practices.
Their regenerative grazing management has also resulted in increasing their soil organic matter levels from 2.5 to 4.5 per cent. This has boosted productivity and profitability as well as delivering resilience in drought years.
Around 68 percent of the world’s agricultural lands are used for grazing. The published evidence shows that correctly managed pastures can build up soil organic matter faster than many other agricultural systems, and this material is stored deeper in the soil.
Research by Machmuller and colleagues shows that regenerative grazing practices could regenerate soil and ground covers in three years. The ranches studied increased their cation exchange capacity (nutrient availability) by 95 percent and increased their water holding capacity by 34 percent.
These grazing systems are some of the best ways to increase soil organic matter levels. Machmuller et al. noted that they sequestered 29,360 kg of CO2 per hectare per year. This is an enormous amount of carbon dioxide being taken out of the air by photosynthesis and converted into organic matter to feed the soil microbiome. Several studies show that the amount of CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere is greater than greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems showing that scaling up regenerative grazing can help to reverse climate change. There are several soil carbon credit schemes that are paying famers and ranchers for increasing soil organic matter levels.
Regenerative grazing can turn livestock production from being one of the major contributors to climate change into one of the largest solutions to climate change.
Adaptive Multi-paddock (AMP) Grazing
One of the most successful methods of controlling weeds and improving the productivity of pastures is called adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing. In many of the current grazing systems the animals tend to concentrate on the species that they prefer and continuously eat them out. This leaves the weeds to proliferate. Too many grazing systems allow the stock to overeat the ground covers, leaving bare, exposed soil that ends up being eroded by wind and water. Much of the environmental degradation in arid and semi-arid areas is due to damaging grazing practices.
AMP confines a large number of stock to smaller paddocks/cells for short periods, forcing them to thoroughly graze all the edible plants. Being highly confined forces the livestock to eat all the edible plants, not just their preferred species, resulting in a more efficient use of the pasture.
The higher stock density also ensures that weeds are crushed and trampled and that the manure is kicked and scattered across the ground, fertilising the soil. The animals are then moved to another cell and the process is repeated. There is a continuous rotation of controlled grazing in the cells, and animals only return to the original cell when the feed has regrown.
The key to AMP systems is intense, short periods of grazing that ensure that fewer than 50 percent of the available forage is eaten. This means that ground covers will not shed too many roots and will consequently recover more quickly. Research shows that these systems produce much more feed per hectare, are better at efficiently using rainfall, and significantly improve soil health and fertility. Farms managed with AMP systems can carry more stock per hectare than those with fixed stocking systems.
Another very important benefit of these rotational systems is better control of internal parasites. Starting with clean stock is important. Most stock get infected from the eggs of the parasites in the bare soil. By always ensuring that less that 50 percent the leaf area is eaten, ranchers can prevent the mouths of livestock from being in contact with the eggs of the parasites. The other important management technique is to know the length of the lifecycle of the parasites and to not return the stock to a paddock/cell until the life cycle has finished. In some cases this will require a period of up to three life cycles to ensure that the paddock/cell is clean.
Researchers have demonstrated that the appropriate time-managed grazing systems will not kill a single plant and will increase the biodiversity of native plants, animals, insects, and microorganisms in the farm ecosystem.
Some of the most successful examples of AMP use multiple species in succession, such as grazing cattle followed by sheep followed by poultry, as each will tend to eat different species.
There are many farming and research organisations involved in scaling up regenerative grazing systems on every arable continent, including Australia. There is now a considerable body of published science and evidence-based practices showing that these systems regenerate degraded lands and increase pasture species diversity thereby improving productivity, water holding capacity, and soil carbon levels. There are numerous excellent books, websites, online social groups, and organisations that can provide detailed information on the most effective systems.
Some of the resource links are provided below:
Acres USA is the best online bookstore for Regenerative Agriculture
Graduate Certificate in Regenerative Agriculture at Southern Cross University, NSW.
Savory Hubs – Australian Holistic Management Co-operative Limited
Facebook groups – there are many more than these suggested – search to find local groups